FotoFocus Cincinnati

Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell talk about their collection

Small but Mighty Contemporary Art Museums

Road Trip: Small-But-Mighty Contemporary Art Museums
Don’t go big and don’t go home. Travel to these art venues instead.

November 17, 2014, Cincinnati Magazine Alyssa Konermann

Cleveland: Transformer Station Cincinnati’s not the only Ohio city on a renovation spree—that list includes the actual Ohio City, a neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side. Look no further than the Transformer Station, a 1924 streetcar power substation turned contemporary art hub. The original 22-foot ceilings, masonry, and ironwork were augmented with a modern—yet impressively complementary—addition. The station now houses art, as well as concerts and lectures, and it’s keeping the folks at the Cleveland Museum of Art fresh: CMA runs the station six months of each year as a laboratory and gallery space for new, significant contemporary art.

Through January 17, expect a sociopolitical commentary punch from Julia Wachtel’s cartoon and news-photography mash-up paintings, and a poetic set of sculptures from Anicka Yi entitled Death. It’s the third in her trilogy—after Denial (shown in Berlin) and Divorce (shown in New York)—looking at the “forensics of loss and longing.” Heads up: Chrome-painted dumbbells and fried flowers are involved.
The Transformer Station in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood

"Mousse" Reviews Julia Wachtel and Anicka Yi Shows

Mousse Magazine

Julia Wachtel

Rising to prominence in the early 1980s, Julia Wachtel focuses her artistic practice on the visual language of mass culture.

This first institutional solo exhibition in 20 years, features the works for which she became known as well as recent paintings. Influenced by her Pictures Generation counterparts and the 1960s protagonists of Pop Art, Wachtel appropriates popular imagery to critique an increasingly media-saturated society.

Read more here


Julia Wachtel installation view at Transformer Station, Cleveland, 2014
Courtesy: Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland. Photo: David Brinchford.
© Julia Wachtel

Anika Yi “Death”

Anicka Yi creates art that poetically speaks to the experience of everyday life and the things that govern it—whether they are major corporations like Monsanto or emotions such as those tied to loss. While her art often takes the form of sculpture, it hardly behaves as such, decomposing before our very eyes or wafting away in the form of a handmade perfume. Running throughout Yi’s work is a deep interest in all of the senses a human body can experience—and thus one can often smell a work by Yi before seeing it in the gallery. Engaging with viewers on an intellectual, emotional, and even sensual level, her work is simultaneously alluring and curious.


Above: Sister, 2011

Courtesy: Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland. Photos: David Brichford.
© Anicka Yi


"Unknown" Featured in ARTnews

Lead article in September 2014 ARTnews features three images from “Unknown” (including the magazine’s cover) and mentions the show as one of the current exhibitions dealing with the issue of privacy and artist’s rights.Cover ArtNewsArticle Read More...

Boston Globe Reviews "Silver Meadows"

In Todd Hido’s photographs, place and state of mind intersect

(This show was organized by Transformer Station and premiered there May 24 - August 24, 2013)

By Mark Feeney  | GLOBE STAFF   SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

Is Silver Meadows a place that’s a state of mind, or a state of mind that’s a place — and which is more real? Silver Meadows the actual place is a section of Kent, in northern Ohio. Silver Meadows the state of mind is a section of photographer Todd Hido’s imagination. The intersection between the two might best be described as a demonstration that sense of place can be spiritual as well as geographic.

Hido grew up in Kent. He grew away from there too. He now lives in the Bay Area. Both experiences, residence and rejection, deeply inform “Todd Hido: Excerpts From Silver Meadows.” The show runs at Boston University Art Gallery through Oct. 19.

Hido has described Silver Meadows as “a loose, fictitious place based on inadequate memory.” When is memory ever adequate — or, for that matter, not at least partly fictive? The more than 100 photographs that make up the show suggest a feeling of connection that could come only from someone who grew up there — and a feeling of revulsion that could come only from someone who fled. These images, which in so many ways are about the workings of memory, are a reminder of the truism that the past is another country. Among the questions they raise is the citizenship status of this particular resident of that particular country. Read More...

ARTFORUM Critic's Pick: "Silver Meadows"

Todd Hido

(This show was organized by Transformer Station and premiered there May 24 - August 24, 2013)

09.05.14-10.19.14 Boston University Art Gallery
Todd Hido’s current exhibition, “Excerpts from Silver Meadow,” pursues a disjointed narrative about midwestern suburbia in the 1960s and ’70s. From the puzzle pieces—nearly one hundred photographs, pulp novels, and ephemera—we discover an anxiously normal boy with a dark side. The uneven sizing and hanging of the images augment this collage effect, with the works by turns manifesting fear, banality, and lust. Many of the blurred landscapes taken from inside a car bleakly outline a particular upbringing—Hido’s own. In fact, the show as a whole productively commingles the tale of a fictionalized character and a re-creation of the artist’s upbringing in Kent, Ohio.

In one grouping, a reproduction of a torn and taped photo of a woman with her dress yanked up is positioned between a photo of a handwritten notecard showing the measurements of a young man’s body, and a black-and-white photo of two boys playing in front of a suburban house. In another cluster, the viewer finds a decomposing, yellowing home; a fallen red tricycle (in a tribute to Eggleston); a lushly wallpapered interior desolate of objects aside from an off-the-hook telephone; and a final, fading memory from a fragment of a party banner: COME HOME.

Hido also has a propensity for voyeuristic night imagery. In #7373, 2009, tire treads in light snow lead up to a darkened home in which only a room on the second floor is illuminated. This image also appears on the cover of a Vintage reissue edition of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories (1989), which is displayed in a vitrine alongside novels such as Sin Drenched and Driven Desire. Throughout, the small-town vernacular of Hido’s American landscapes becomes charged with a compelling friction.

Plain Dealer reviews "Unknown"

A captivating exhibition at Transformer Station explores the allure of gazing at strangers


By Steve Litt, Plain Dealer

It's impolite to stare at strangers, for good reason. Prolonged staring can be seen as a sign of aggression, or perhaps unwelcome sexual attention.

Photographers, however, ignore such social norms, and that's a good thing. If they behaved like the rest of us, we wouldn't have exhibitions such as the Transformer Station's excellent new "Unknown: Pictures of Strangers."

The show explores the allure of gazing at people we don't know, or, to put it more precisely, people whom the photographers didn't know when they captured their images.

The exhibition also reveals new facets in the sensibilities of collectors Fred and Laura Bidwell, who own Transformer Station and use it to display works from their personal collection or new works they commission from contemporary artists. Read More...

New York Times Features Transformer Station

Cleveland, a City Repurposed

by Shivani Vora, New York Times
June 26, 2014

If there had to be a slogan to describe Cleveland as it is today, “what’s old is new again” would undoubtedly be it. In the last few years, locals and businesses in this Midwest metropolis have been repurposing historic buildings from its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and turning them into restaurants, stores and draws for both residents and tourists. Many of these structures had sat empty for a decade or more before restoration efforts began infusing a vibrancy into this once-somewhat-downtrodden city...

...Regeneration has also come to the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, known more for its food-centric West Side Market, where there is a year-old contemporary art gallery called the Transformer Station (1460 West 29 Street, 216-938-5429;, which was built in 1924 as a power-converter station for the local streetcar line. Fred and Laura Bidwell, husband-and-wife artists and philanthropists, bought the space — a square brick building reminiscent of a Greek temple — to showcase art from around the world and to share its four exhibitions a year with the Cleveland Museum of Art. The main hall has 22-foot ceilings and a huge horizontal crane that can lift 15 tons. The gallery has free admission. “We’re trying to showcase some top-level art,” Mr. Bidwell said, “which we hope should entice people to come to this part of town.”

Plain Dealer Reviews Redheaded Peckerwood

The Transformer Station and the Starkweather killing spree: When are multiple homicides a fitting subject for art? (Review)

Steve Litt - Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Transformer Station's big spring exhibition, "Redheaded Peckerwood," is a difficult and uncomfortable experience. It could hardly be otherwise.
The hand-painted white-walled tire in "Redheaded Peckerwood" is part of the eclectic approach to the Starkweather killings of 1957-58 taken by artist Christian Patterson at the Transformer Station. Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer
In photographs, hand-painted signs, magazine clippings and actual pieces of evidence, the exhibition retraces the trail of mayhem left by 19-year-old Charlie Starkweather, who murdered 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming during the winter of 1957-58, while accompanied by his 14-year-old runaway girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate.
Starkweather was executed at Nebraska State Penitentiary in 1959; Fugate was sentenced to life in prison and paroled in 1976.
The question is why the gallery and New York artist
Christian Patterson, who doggedly researched and documented the murder spree, have chosen to focus so much attention on it, and in what context.

CMA Concerts at Transformer Station Reviewed

Frode Haltli, Norwegian accordionist (April 27)

by Mike Telin, Cleveland Classical

On Sunday, April 27 the CMA Concerts at Transformer Station series concluded its inaugural season with a stunningly beautiful performance by Norwegian virtuoso classical accordionist Frode Haltli.

SPACES coming to Hingetown

Spaces is close to signing a long-term lease in Ohio City's burgeoning arts district

Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A burgeoning cultural node in Ohio City on Cleveland’s near West Side could soon get a serious boost if the nonprofit art gallery Spaces can raise enough cash to move into the neighborhood.
After months of quiet negotiations, Spaces is close to signing a lease with developer Michael Chesler, owner of the 14,000-square-foot brick industrial building at the southeast corner of West 29th Street and Detroit Avenue.
A vista of the Hingetown area of Ohio City from the steps of the Transformer Station gallery on Monday included the potential future home of Spaces, to the left in the middle distance, and the colorful facade of the Ohio City Firehouse, to the right.

ArtSlant Reviews SUPERBLACK

Black as midnight on a moonless night
by Natalie Hegert - ArtSlant


"Black as midnight on a moonless night."
That’s how Special Agent Cooper likes his coffee, and that’s what I thought of when viewing SUPERBLACK by Jordan Tate, at Transformer Station in Cleveland, Ohio.
“That’s pretty black,” says Pete Martell, as he pours a cup of coffee for Cooper in that first episode of Twin Peaks.
SUPERBLACK is pretty black all right. In fact it’s the blackest black you’ll ever see. It’s… excuse me… really fucking black.


ArtHOPPER reviews the new shows

Fruit cake still costs 98 cents
April 8, 2014 by Jimmy Kuehnle
Ray of Light. Christian Patterson.2007. Archival pigment print 40 x 60 inches. Collection of Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell. Photo courtesy of artist.
Science wins. Check and mate.
Now on to tasty fruit cake.
It still costs 98 cents, for a whole cake or just a piece? It must come with pink icing and a red cherry. Tires still have gleaming wide white walls. A murder’s hair comes pre-sculpted like James Dean’s and hood ornaments project out longer than a foot.

Plain Dealer reviews Hank Willis Thomas

Hank Willis Thomas at Transformer Station and the Cleveland Museum of Art: Exploring race, corporate power and cultural stereotypes

Steve Litt - Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Every day in zillions of ways, major-league sports, movies, television and advertising pump out rivers of stereotypical images of African-Americans and other racial and ethnic groups. It’s so pervasive and overwhelming that it’s easy to let it all wash over you and take it for granted.

This is manifestly not how artist Hank Willis Thomas regards the daily visual flow.

In a polished and wickedly on-target multipart exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Transformer Station in Ohio City, Thomas, 37, who lives and works in New York and San Francisco, captures, appropriates and overturns cliched media images of African-Americans. Read More...